Picture this; you adopt a 13 year old girl, you provide, support, love and care for her, instil values in her as a parent should, watch her grow into a beautiful young woman. She turns 21 and you suddenly see her as a potential wife or sex partner. Sounds like a plot twist from a weird movie right? Wrong. The Botswana law thinks it is perfectly normal and that is exactly what may be happening in some bedrooms in the country.
When local lawyer, Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law firm in Gaborone posted a status on Facebook this week that read “law that allows adopted people to be married or have sex with their adopted parents” the whole country went into a tailspin. The law states that “(a) the adoption of a person shall not prohibit or permit a marriage between that person and other person which would not have been prohibited or permitted if the adoption had not taken place; provided that no marriage shall be contracted between an adopted person who is under the age of 21 years and his adoptive parent (b) shall not prohibit under criminal sanction any carnal knowledge between that person and any other person, which would not have been so prohibited if the adoption had not taken place.
The adoption of the children’s act basically says that the law would not stand in the way of parents of adopted children from marrying them provided they are 21 years of age and would also not stand in the way of the adoptive parents having sexual relations with their children. As alarming and shocking as this law is, it has been around since 1952.
Speaking to Sunday Standard’s Lifestyle, Uyapo Ndadi says that this is a law that he isn’t particularly proud to talk about. “This law is not consistent with our values in Botswana; I find it immoral, distasteful and abusive on children. This is definitely a law that should be abolished as it leaves our children rather vulnerable and unprotected and exposes them to sexual abuse. Children who are biologically from their parents have different rights; the law views them differently and offers protection than those adopted. I believe laws are made to serve the people therefore it they are not suitable then we should make amends to them. Adoption is a good thing when done with good intentions but the laws definitely need to be made better. Although people say I should have kept quiet and not exposed this law as the perpetrators will now act how the law states I am of the view that speaking out helps.” He says the law encourages a power imbalance between the adoptive parents and the adoptees, the adoptees are likely to agreeing to sexual relations with their parents as they feel they owe their lives and everything they are to them.
Masego Oduetswe a mother of three, who works at Choppies Mogoditshane, said “I think it promotes and encourages abuse, what this laws basically means is, you groom a child to become your wife. I find it sickening and rather pathetic. “